Opinion: Column: Present and Future Danger

Opinion: Column: Present and Future Danger

Having recently been infused three weeks after my last treatment, no guarantee given certain lab results, I am now on track to have one more infusion before my Sept. 26 CT scan. The plan is, per my "Progressing But So Am I" column (8/15/18), to triple the amount of medicine I will have received before my next scan. This will compare quite favorably to the one infusion I received prior to my July 25 scan.

Moreover, as I've considered the previous quarter's infusion schedule trying to understand possible reasons for the 10-percent-ish tumor growth which occurred, I've come up with a hopefully plausible explanation. Other than that's what cancer so often does, that is.

As my previous years of scans continued to show "stable," my oncologist and I kept increasing the interval between infusions trying to strike a balance between treating the cause and me living with the effect. Over these years, we've gradually extended those infusion intervals from every three weeks, to every four, to five, to six and most recently to seven-week intervals, all the while maintaining my quarterly CT schedule.

Apparently, we've now struck out, so to speak, and for the moment at least, we're in sort of a limbo. (Hopefully the bar isn't set so incredibly low that we can't slide under it.)

As for minimizing the growth, could the solution be as simple as more medicine?

As to what my oncologist thinks of this assessment, I've not mentioned to him as I've only recently theorized it (maybe he knew already and that's what contributed to his suggestion that we follow this course of treatment/action).

We did discuss changing medicines, but he was afraid of the side effects it might cause. We also discussed if he'd had other patients who had experienced tumor growth after a period of stability — like me, who after increasing the frequency of the previously stabilizing drug showed stable once again. He said he had – so, rather than presume all is lost, we've agreed to go forward into the great semi unknown. An “unknown” that will likely end in late September when my next scan's results will be reported.

Now that you know the foundation for this column, let me address the substance behind it. There is a scenario which worries me. It's premature I grant you, but it's difficult to play dumb all the time, especially when it involves cancer/your life.

Still, if I've learned anything from my oncologist, it is that discussing scenarios before the evidence is confirmed is a bit of a fool’s errand, so waiting until the actual results are in is better. More accurate anyway.

Despite what I've been told, this patient might not be able to be so patient. Ergo: What if my late September scan shows growth — again? What if, even after tripling the amount of medicine I infuse, the tumors grow, maybe even grow more significantly than ever before?

I'd have to say that development would be a problem and a bit more disappointing than July's scan results. If that result in fact occurs, would that square me at a crossroads? I would think. Would that result obliterate the false sense of security I may have had? Hardly. Cancer patients don't have a sense of security, false or otherwise. We have a sense of inevitability.

Somehow, over the next month, I must find a path forward through this cycle of potentially impending gloom. Right now, nothing has happened. Right now, nothing has been determined. I don't feel any different than before and I don't believe I have any of the symptoms my oncologist has advised me about. I still have an appetite and I'm certainly not losing any weight.

I expect to have one more infusion before this next scan, and to feel the usual post-chemotherapy side effects that I do and then recover and feel as I do today: pretty well. One month, exactly, from the date I'm writing this column, to the date of my next scan and hopefully just a few days later for the results.

What worries me most is, sometimes the human body has a mind of its own, and despite the best of intentions and treatment, it is, to quote my late mother, "Enough already."